DETROIT (AP) — A judge expressed doubt Tuesday about the legality of a sudden ban on the open display of guns near Michigan polling places on Election Day.

Judge Christopher Murray heard arguments on a challenge to a rule announced on Oct. 16 by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, who has banned people from openly carrying guns within 100 feet of polling places on Nov. 3.

Gun rights groups argued that Benson failed to go through a formal rule-making process as required under state law. Murray seemed to agree.

“They could have done this months ago,” he said to a state attorney defending Benson.

“This is the kind of thing where public input is required,” Murray said. “There’s already a state law that prohibits voter intimidation. If anyone feels intimidated by someone brandishing or carrying an open weapon, there’s already statutory authority to take care of that problem.”

But Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast said lawmakers have given secretaries of state discretion to set certain election rules. She said Benson acted after authorities recently busted up an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Armed critics upset with Whitmer’s orders about controlling the coronavirus have rallied at the Capitol.

“There are dozens — we’ve had numerous complaints,” Meingast said. “There are voters who are afraid. There are election workers who are afraid to go to work on Election Day.”

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